Friday, September 26, 2008

Pins & Needles

It may seem somewhat strange that even though I've lived among the Chinese in Southeast Asia for 40 years, until now, I've never tried Traditional Chinese Medicine, or more specifically, acupuncture. The reason is that I have been blessed with good health and never needed it, but about a month ago, an X-ray showed I have "mild to moderate" spinal degeneration with bone growths on a couple of vertebrae pressing on a nerve and causing leg pain.

Through a series of incredible good luck and coincidences, we were introduced to a TCM doctor from northern China, who has a "clinic" here. He and his wife don't speak any English or Malay (despite 4-5 years in Kota Kinabalu) but we've been lucky to be introduced to a very kind woman who not only speaks Mandarin and English, but Malay and a few Chinese dialects. she acts as our go-between with Dr Wong.

Today is day #10 for both JF and I. Amazingly, my leg pains diminished after the first treatment and only once have I had to resort to pain-killers since starting the course of acupuncture. JF is feeling less shoulder pain and starting to have relief from his chronic insomnia, so we're both delighted.

The "clinic" inspires less confidence than the doctor himself, trained at a Beijing university, 30 years experience, understands Western medicine and asks you to bring in X-rays and MRIs. He has a strong northern accent, which makes me giggle as it reminds me of someone from Somerset. The clinic is room 6021 in the Ruby Hotel, on the edge of the old Kampung Air (Water Village) district. It consists of 1 double bed (the conjugal bed after hours); 1 single bed; 1 proper massage table and 2 armchairs, all separated by curtains. However, one day I found myself sharing the double bed with an elderly lady having treatment for a stroke! At least a pillow was placed in the middle to mark a separation!

Although I hate needles and injections, the insertion of the acupuncture needles (we have our own set, sterilised after each use) isn't painful. They only just pierce the skin, then are connected to electricity for light impulses over a 20-minute period. The only discomfort — no, dammit, it was pain — was a couple of times when the needle must have been touching a nerve and when the power went on, I felt I was being electrocuted. I realised that I would have been a lousy member of the Resistance — no way I could have withstood torture, especially if it involved electric shocks!

As well as the acupuncture and acupressure massage, I've embarked on Chi Kung, the ancient art of energy management which can be very effective for degenerative disease (such as my back problem). So after four decades, I'm fully embracing the Chinese approach. But regretably, I'm still not speaking Mandarin.

1 comment:

Borneo Belle said...

Glad the acupuncture is producing positive results. On a related note, Jim and I have had our feet munched on by doctor fish at 1 Borneo - ticklish and then strangely soothing. RM28 for 20 minutes and you walk out with cleaner feet. Check out more on

P.s. I'd love to learn Mandarin myself -let's see if there's a class around Damai in the coming months.